Monday, April 28, 2014

Study shows Men secretly Resent Women’s Phatness

Dateline: NEW YORK—Islamic states are infamous in the West for forcing women to wear burqas, since those outer garments obscure the shape of women’s bodies and are thus odious from a feminist standpoint. Defenders of the sexist laws typically resort to theological or moral rationales, none of which is found in the Quran.

But a team of researchers at NYU has published a study explaining the behaviour as the result of men’s surprising annoyance at women for being sexy and beautiful.

“Women’s curves are ostentatious and seductive,” says the lead scientist, Alfonse Flurfleburger, “but that poses a problem for heterosexual men who would rather not be preoccupied by their raging erection when they’re trying to get work done.”

The team’s report points out that these second thoughts about feminine charms crop up in Western cultures as well. “You hear men crying out, ‘Goddamn, woman!’ when they’re walking down the street, minding their own business, only to be slammed by a vision of a voluptuous woman’s bulging rump and enormous, pendulous breasts that are only barely concealed by the sexy clothing that’s standard fare in the free world.

“Western women want their liberties, but my team and I hypothesize that men sometimes want to think about something less silly and savage than stopping everything they’re doing and smothering their face in the woman’s phat flesh.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I love them ladies,” says a bank teller, Dirk Simmons. “But sometimes I wonder if it’s too much to ask not to have to start thinking like a monkey whenever I see a foxy chick at work. She’s bending over the desk in this tight skirt and her phat butt’s as round as the full moon, man; I mean, it’s like having the moon itself fall to our planet just to smash you in the face. And I’m like, “Gaddayum!’ you know?”

The study shows that the telltale condemnation, “Goddamn, woman!” when uttered by a male who’s exasperated by the preposterous overkill involved when a curvaceous female flaunts her boobs and booty, making civilized life next to impossible, is actually a euphemism.

According to Prof. Flurfleburger, “men are condemning women for taunting and tempting them with their outrageous lady humps, for reducing men to gibbering imbeciles who can’t take care of business at the same time as they’re fantasizing about tearing off their clothes and humping the phat mounds like crazed gorillas.

“So the full exclamation isn’t just “Goddamn, woman!’ It’s “Goddamn your cleavage and your horse-like haunches for causing my erection which makes me ashamed to pretend to be civilized, dressed as I am now in my suit and sitting here, sweating and masturbating furiously in the bathroom stall, fantasizing about my female colleague who’s free to display the curves of her heavenly jugs and apple bottom.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Parasitic Supervillains and the Housing Bubble

The subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 has both exoteric and esoteric significance. Exoterically, the inflation of the housing bubble and the Great Recession that followed were grist for the punditry mill, events that were quickly spun by social engineers using code words that mesmerized the partisan spectators, reinforcing battle lines in the American culture war. The function of that war between mainstream ideologies is to dissipate emotional energy so that it’s not effectively channeled for any democratic purpose.

In this respect, the political culture war is similar to the separation of the government’s powers, which as Carl Schmidt said, also conflicts with democracy. Democracy is meant to uphold the individual’s right to self-determination so that everyone is sovereign over themselves, through their vote, and the majority rules by way of a compromise with anarchy. However, democracy turns out to be counterproductive when the population doesn’t deserve the capacity for self-determination, such as when the people are grossly uninformed and easily manipulated by self-serving demagogues. For that reason, the government’s ability to carry out the majority’s will is often practically limited by a separation of the government’s powers, to prevent a tyranny of the vulgarized majority. Conflict between the branches of government delays or prevents the administering of the majority-approved policies, but it also distracts the public with the spectacle of empty rhetorical exchanges or it exacerbates divisions among the constituents, creating gridlock between the parties. The liberal myth is that all rational individuals deserve to rule, because they’re godlike. But wherever voters are much more like animals than gods, liberalism entails in practice only superficial democracy. The government is literally broken into pieces to prevent an outbreak of real democracy, since such an outbreak would be like the oinking of wild, stampeding boars. 

Exoterically speaking, then, the meaning of the housing bubble is lost in the noise generated by so-called liberals and conservatives. Liberals blame the deregulation of big banks, even though neoliberals under Clinton continued the deregulation that had accelerated under Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Obama’s economics team consisted of those same deregulators. Conservatives blame big government for pressuring banks to issue subprime loans. These are the same conservatives whose free market policies entail the capture of the government by the army of lobbyists from big business and by the revolving door between government offices and those in the private sector; moreover, as I explain below, the surge in subprime loans wasn’t the main cause of the collapse. To be sure, the political culture war is itself a sideshow in that it doesn’t reflect the American opinion as a whole, since at most only half of the eligible voters participate in the political system. Also, the American mainstream media, which establish the limits of exoteric meaning, that is, the consensus that takes on mythical status for the antiphilosophical masses, ignore the poor, the marginalized, and the radicalized, preferring to report on the Serious opinions that flatter those who are most responsible for maintaining the political and economic status quo. For their part, the disenfranchised masses are uninspired by the myths that buttress the American dominance hierarchy.   

Then there’s the esoteric importance of the economic crisis, that is, the enlightened interpretation made available especially to social outsiders. When the liberal and conservative caterwauling is duly ignored, along with the centrist, pseudo-mature middle ground in which either side’s rhetoric is merely reduced to its bland essence, “Stop fighting and let the system work!” what we find is that in 2008 a great mirror was raised to the face of the United States and the reflected visage was so hideous that only a masochist or a social outsider with nothing to lose could stand to look at it for long. The housing bubble was a titanic clusterfuck that deligitimizes nearly every facet of American society. Both parties and all three branches of the government along with the banks, the regulators, the accountants, the economists, the business journalists, the plutocrats and even the average American citizens are all implicated. From beginning to end, the economic crisis reflects the rottenness of postmodern America.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Science and Aesthetic Morality

Earlier, I posted some fruitful email exchanges I had with readers of this blog, on pessimism and angst and on social justice. Here's another email exchange. You can contact me by email through the Contact the Ranter form on the right side of this blog, just below my blog profile.


Dear Ben,

I apologize if this is stupid. But there's something I can't quite reconcile and I would appreciate your help. Scientism is this sort of dogmatic view that says “any question science can't answer is meaningless.” However, it seems like you use science to dismiss various metaphysical schemes that entail morality or the supernatural, which makes plenty of sense. Yet you turn around sometimes and say “well we shouldn't dismiss everything, because we don't know the limits of science, and it may well be more limited than we think.”

It seems to me like you have one foot in the door. You use science when it's convenient for dismissing theism and various metaphysics. Yet you reject science when it might suggest that holding onto the manifest image [the prescientific account of the self] at all is pointless. In other words, you seem to want to be able to build morality in line with scientific conclusions, and reject morality and metaphysics that are not in line with scientific conclusions. This is where my problem comes in. If you say science is practiced as scientism, then why are we limiting what we consider to be possible? For example, the multiverse formulation of QM [or chaos theory and the ecological perspective in biology] might make the mechanistic view moot. We should then also consider that the reductionistic view of consciousness could be flawed. [Thus, contrary to scientism, science itself seems limited.] But again, you turn around and use science to show the flaws in other systems of thought, seemingly on the basis that science is a better explanatory tool.

I know that's not exactly straightforward, and quite jumbled. But I'm curious where you draw the line. I want to know how you feel you use science to destroy certain metaphysics or morality competently, while maintaining that science also does not have this all-encompassing reach. How does it go just far enough to get your work done, without going quite all the way? What justifies aesthetic morality over Christian/slave morality? Would it not be possible that because human beings have, say, a biological intuition that other people are ends-in-themselves, we could consider that intuition an aesthetically pleasing object, even if clichéd? If we could make the world more egalitarian and less dominated, wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

I guess part of my problem is about where to draw the line with your aesthetic morality. Once science destroys metaphysics and morality, what is there left to cling to? And if we're going to allow that science can't give us normative or subjective answers, why then must we destroy, for example, a Kantian conception of morality? Simply because it ultimately derives from Christianity?

Do you see where I'm coming from? I'm not attacking your conception. These are questions I struggle with generally. And they're questions that I've found few satisfying answers to. You touch on them in your blog, but I still don't quite see a cohesive synthesis on this front. Any illumination would be greatly appreciated.

[name redacted]


Dear Reader,

Some of your questions touch on the debate I've been having with Scott Bakker. I'll try to clarify my account for you. First, we've got to be clearer on some of the terms. I reject scientism, not science. Scientism is the self-refuting philosophy that says science is cognitively unlimited. On the contrary, science is limited because it has no normative implications. Thus, the whole domain of normative questions is left to philosophy and religion to sort out. The naive self-image is committed to there being meaning, purpose, and morality, and the naturalist who thinks this self-image isn't just a delusion must find a way to naturalize those phenomena. I try to do that by speaking of evolution, complexification, and emergent properties.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pragmatism as a Dead End for New Atheism

In a culture war, ideas are often dumbed down for mass consumption. In the Age of Twitter especially, the goal is hardly to understand what’s happening, from an egoless, philosophical perspective, which requires doing research and engaging with arguments; instead, there’s a race to capture an idea in as few words as possible so they’ll fit on a bumper sticker. Time is money and science and the free market have replaced philosophy in the public’s imagination, so as far as most modern folks are concerned, ideas must be sold by means of slogans and advertisements, not explained or supported by rational dialogue. And so in the conflict between new atheism and religious fundamentalism, even many atheists who are supposed to be on the more rational side resort to the slogan which has become something of a meme, which is that “Science Wins because it Works.” Atheists are just following the winner, which is science and reason generally, whereas theists are stuck in the past. That’s the familiar modern view of progress which, as John Gray points out, repurposes Christianity’s teleological interpretation of history. Many atheists would indeed prefer to talk about the fallacies of science or about the evidence for the naturalistic worldview, but the new mainstream popularity of atheism, after the 911 attacks, has thrust certain leaders of the movement into the limelight whereupon they’ve been forced to cater to the low expectations of the media. Moreover, these leading atheists, including Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins, resort to triumphalist rhetoric as though the conflict turned on the question of which side is more self-confident, as though it were a contest of wills rather than ideas.

Coyne introduces a couple of cartoons on his blog with the above slogan and when explaining how we justify the scientific method, Dawkins says in a public forum that science works, pausing before adding the triumphalist flourish: “bitches.” The meaning of this slogan is that scientific theories can be successfully applied and so the proof is in the pudding, whereas theism and pseudoscience are relatively useless. As Dawkins says, “planes fly, cars drive, computers compute.” So science is obviously justifiable on pragmatic grounds, thanks to its many technological applications. You can argue with a bunch of mathematical squiggles on a page, especially if you can’t make heads or tails of them, but you can’t argue with a car’s engine or with the efficacy of a nuclear missile. Science works and religion doesn’t. That’s one of the new atheistic sentiments that embolden evangelical atheists. In fact, the erstwhile dominance of Christianity used to inspire Christians to similar displays of passive aggression, since power disparities are responsible for much of our more primitive behaviour. Religious fundamentalists still bizarrely trust in their childish narratives, almost as though they’d been transported to the present from the distant past by a time machine. We much prefer to be on the winning side and so we often live in denial when our home team loses the advantage of being able to dominate our enemies. Modernity is marked, of course, by the end of theocracies in the West and by the transfer of power and rights to secular forces, especially to scientists, elected political representatives, and capitalists in relatively free competitions for profit and private property, as well as to women, children, and racial minorities.

The boast that science works plays as a veiled reminder that science and science-centered industries have the power now and that the philosophical issue of Truth is beside the point. “Get on the winning team,” that’s the new atheist’s invitation. In this respect, the new atheist is pragmatic. Of course, these atheists also believe that naturalism is true and that God doesn’t exist as a matter of fact, but pragmatism is the fall-back position. Exasperated by the theist’s foolishness, an atheist will often appeal to the manifest usefulness of science and of reason generally, by way of contrasting the works of the atheist’s team with those of the theist’s faith-based one. Science works in that it vastly improves the lives of all of those living in advanced industrial societies. Science makes technology possible and technology achieves the purposes we set out for it; machines successfully carry out their functions because they’re entwined with natural mechanisms, thus indicating the accuracy of scientific models. Meanwhile, theistic myths and pseudosciences like astrology and psychic prediction don’t work. You can make money from the latter, but only by conning people. Science is obviously no con.

The Pragmatist’s Can of Worms

This pragmatism, though, is a can of worms. If the standard is utility, then we’re talking about the ability to achieve certain goals. Science is useful because through its technological applications it enables us to control natural processes; for example, access to advances in medical science increases our lifespan. To say that science works, then, is to say that science carries out its goal-oriented functions. But if goals are crucial here, the question is whether theism works in exactly the same way, albeit in relation to different goals. Science serves both public and hidden agendas. For example, many nonscientists would say that the main benefit of science is that it makes possible the gadgets that enrich their lives, such as the internet and mobile communication devices. But one of the original hopes for modern science was for progress as secular institutions were expected to replace dogmatic ones like Christianity. Early modern thinkers trumpeted their radical ideas, but as the atheistic utopia failed to materialize after the rise and fall of fascism and communism in the last century, modern leaders have learned to pander to the religious mob, to pretend that science doesn’t entail that their treasured myths are hopelessly antiquated.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sociopathic Power Elites, Beta Herds, and Omega Watchers

Modern skeptics often assume that because there are obviously no supernatural gods, theists must be borderline insane and their scriptures vacuous. Indeed, there are embarrassing delusions that sustain theism in modern societies. However, this line of criticism betrays a delusion on the skeptic’s part: that of scientism which in this case takes the form of literalistic narrow-mindedness, or what’s traditionally been called Philistinism. In short, skeptics treat theistic religion as a protoscience and so they read scriptures as being failed theories of the objective facts. These modern Philistines give short shrift to nonscientific questions and modes of inquiry. Again, there are, of course, no supernatural gods; however, there are natural ones, and both monotheistic and polytheistic scriptures have always been oblique, metaphorical references to the autocratic human rulers who identified themselves with the gods to gain their populations’ obedience.

To focus on the question of whether supernatural gods exist is to utterly miss the point of religion, which is to unite society with myths that rationalize the injustices endemic to the default organization of most social species, including ours. Indeed, being likely fans of science fiction, modern skeptics should appreciate how fictions like the religious scriptures work: they only pretend to refer to strange, distant times and places, whereas they actually speak to contemporary conditions. Note how we’re loathe to dismiss the characters from our favourite novels, plays, or movies as entirely unreal; we know they don’t exist as historical figures, because they’re more important than anything so ephemeral. They instantiate our archetypes and provide frameworks for how we interpret our experience.

Gods, Autocrats, and the Megamachine

If you’re looking for an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator of everything, look no further than the human king, emperor, pharaoh, sultan, kaiser, rajah, czar, or dictator. The human autocrat is all too real. Myths of gods were modeled largely on the Neolithic rulers in Egypt and Mesopotamia who actually controlled armies, so that they were thousands of times more powerful than any average person; who had spies and gang bosses in their chains of command to inform them of all that transpired within their land's borders; and who were effectively or symbolically present in the underlings who represented them and in the magnificent structures they had built. Autocrats don’t create the universe, but most religious people have had no modern conception of the outer cosmos because they’ve been preoccupied with their homeland.

Their local territory was indeed developed by what Lewis Mumford calls the megamachine, which was the human machine assembled by autocrats who used religious myths to galvanize the masses to create what we now call civilization. As Mumford writes in Technics and Human Development, civilization historically rests “in varying proportions” on a megamachine, comprised of “the centralization of political power, the separation of classes, the lifetime division of labor, the mechanization of production, the magnification of military power, the economic exploitation of the weak, and the universal introduction of slavery and forced labor for both industrial and military purposes” (186). The human machine is a social system in which people are forced to occupy dehumanizing roles so that they literally work as mechanical parts. Indeed, this megamachine is “composed of a multitude of uniform, specialized, interchangeable but functionally differentiated parts [i.e. human bodies], rigorously marshaled together and coordinated in a process centrally organized and centrally directed: each part behaving as a mechanical component of the mechanized whole” (196).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Millionaire tricks CNN into stopping its Coverage of Missing Malaysian Plane

Dateline: ATLANTA—Elderly oddball millionaire, Huey Longbottom, shuns the internet and receives all of his news from CNN, but taking no interest in the missing Malaysian plane, which CNN has covered exhaustively for several weeks, Longbottom orchestrated several bizarre spectacles to garner CNN’s attention and entice the news channel to exchange its lead story.

“I know a lot about the news,” insists Longbottom. “Even if CNN is a 24 hour cable news network, they often like to showcase only one story, pushing everything else to the margins. Also, sex sells and if it bleeds, it leads.”

With those principles in mind, Longbottom hired hundreds of performers and staged public orgies all across the United States. When the outdoor sexual extravaganzas alone didn’t attract CNN’s attention, Longbottom placed calls to the local churches, informing them that the sexual exhibitions were satanic in nature.

The resulting conflicts between the outraged Christians and the naked, sweaty, and copulating performers, who clashed in the streets of dozens of major cities, were covered by the local news channels but were picked up on CNN for only a short time before CNN resumed its coverage of the missing plane.

Said Longbottom, “I asked myself just what an obsessive rich man like me has to do to end CNN’s campaign to bore me to death. How many times do I have to hear that they’re still looking for the plane? It flew into the ocean. A couple hundred died. Big deal! Tens of thousands die on the highways every year.

“I just wanted some politics, some world news, but I don’t care for BBC or for any of the others news channels. Then I realized that the humping devil worshippers in fisticuffs with Christian zealots didn’t do the trick, because the story didn’t have legs, not for the big leagues.

“Don’t get me wrong, the staged events were plenty salacious, which was ideal. There were women with huge breasts straddling hooded men, being pelted with tomatoes by deeply offended Christians. All in broad daylight, mind you—and for hours on end: I’d paid off the police to give the networks a chance to pick up the story.

“But it just wasn’t enough. The missing plane continued to be found—on my television screen!”

Longbottom’s next gambit was to appeal to the superhuman vanity of CNN’s editors and newsreaders. Assuming that CNN would prefer to make itself part of a story even if it had only the flimsiest of pretexts to do so, Longbottom hired thousands of stunt actors to surround CNN Center in Atlanta, strip off their clothes and demand that CNN stop reporting on the missing plane.

CNN took the bait, relishing the opportunity to speak their name within a news story. But the allure of the missing plane was too strong and CNN shortly returned to speculating about how black holes or aliens might have swallowed up the aircraft.

“The real problem was that CNN was boring me to death for ratings,” said Longbottom. “Their ratings went up when they started reporting on that damned plane. The ratings actually doubled: they went up from the 104 folks who used to watch CNN to the 229 who became glued to their screens to learn the next non-event in the Malaysian Airlines saga.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

Guns are for Sissies

Here’s my new YouTube video, which looks again at the American gun cult and the sissification of postmodern men.

And below the video are the notes I used to prepare for this video


American gun culture, but more like a cult: Hollywood myths of power, manliness, and heroism (Westerns, gun fights, meme of American military “performing brilliantly” (22,000 hits on Google)); cops and robbers TV shows, NRA, survivalism, and Christian apocalypse fundamentalism; mysterious in Canada, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere which don’t celebrate guns; Question: Why is the gun cult an American phenomenon? Two-part answer: (1) the US is conservative, whereas most modern societies are more liberal, and conservatives pride themselves on being more masculine (authoritarian, honourable, absolutist; see Jonathan Haidt); (2) the US is the most powerful country so the power spills into its culture and Americans reconcile themselves to their domination with militaristic myths, which entail the worship of guns

Question: Why is the gun culture grotesque and pathetic? Two incomplete answers: (1) Feminization, emasculation thesis (Bill Maher and Fight Club novel and movie): rise of women and machines (globalization); men can’t compete and have lose their sense of masculinity; the gun cult is meant to restore or protect masculine values, whereas masculinity in modern societies is clearly in decline; (2) Freudian gun-as-substitute-penis thesis

Gun cult fails to reenergize men, because guns are for sissies: guns don’t augment martial virtues or inspire masculine heroism, since guns kill in a relatively cowardly fashion, allowing the shooter to kill from a position of complete safety, as in sniping and drones; the gun does most of the work and merely has to be triggered with a finger flick to shoot; compare with ancient bow and arrow and spear, the difference being that in the ancient world, men used those weapons to hunt (to kill for their own food); even when they used those weapons in war, their cultures were authentically masculine, because they didn’t have machine as slaves to take care of the necessities of life; compare Bill Maher’s statement that the 911 terrorists weren’t cowardly, contrary to what the US politicians said (the terrorists were infantile, deluded, and irrational, but not cowardly, since they obviously put themselves in harm’s way as they killed their so-called enemies, as opposed to shooting from a distance)

Manly weapons are swords, knives, or fists, since it’s much harder to kill without putting yourself in jeopardy; true, whenever almost everyone has a gun, as in the US, no one is safe, but you still don’t have to get your hands dirty when you shoot, versus killing an animal with a spear, which teaches you the horror of death (similar to the two views of war, those of soldiers and civilian politicians: the more distance you have from war, the more gung-ho you tend to be, since you’re ignorant); the gun dual is meant to make the fight perfectly fair, but it still doesn’t teach masculine virtues, since it makes the fight turn on a flip of a coin; in modern war too, it’s mostly a matter of luck whether you get shot since bullets fly from all directions, as WWII soldiers found out when they stormed the beaches (low US casualty rates recently, since it doesn’t fight real wars against near-equals)

Rise of mixed martial arts addresses the poverty of the gun cult, since fist-fighting obviously takes more heroic kinds of courage and skill

Gun cult an indicator, then, of modern decadence: impotent, doomed defense of manliness; absurdity of bragging about gun collections or killing in gang warfare, because that modern weapon makes you less of a man; it doesn’t teach you humility or honour; it makes you a monster (psychopath), a coward, or PTSD victim (if you experience the chaotic, dehumanizing nature of modern mechanized warfare)